By SUZETTE COOK/Today editor

ALACHUA – While the Cady Studios photographer from Lake City was lining up the Santa Fe High School Raiders Varsity Football team last week for yearbook portraits, SFHS Head Football Coach Bill Wiles was trying to get the message across to his players that the change in district competition for the 2015-2016 season is not something to underestimate.

In January, Wiles said the new map was drawn and announced.

“We'll be playing a difficult schedule, Wiles said. “What worries me, is that we changed districts. So our kids are perceiving it as we were in a district with Suwannee and North Marion, and now, no longer we are. Our kids’ perception is that it’s going to be easy.”

Preseason practice for Raiders started on Aug. 3. And the team is gearing up for its first game on Aug. 21.

This is Wiles’ fourth year coaching at SFHS.

“We should have a good football team,” he said, but added, “Nothing is given to you. We live in a society where people expect things for nothing.”

“Every year you have to rebuild your team,” Wiles said. “Last year’s team has nothing to do with this year’s team. Whatever they want to be. They’re either listening to us, and they’ll take coaching. This team is starting from scratch."

Then he listed the new lineup of top teams that the Raiders will meet up with on the line of scrimmage soon. “Bradford County, Keystone Heights, P.K. Yonge, Interlachen,” he said. “We open the season with Newberry.”

Then it will be on to Charlton County , Georgia “to play one of the best teams in the nation,” he said. “I don’t know if the kids are ready. We play a 7A school from Tallahassee and we’re a 4A team. We play a brutal schedule.”

Then coach sent over players to talk about the upcoming season.

Captain Caysaun Wakley, 17, is a linebacker, a senior, and has a goal of making to the NFL

“I feel like we’ve got a really good chance,” Wakley said, “I’m feeling confident. If we just come out and play our game, we can succeed and possibly get a state championship.”

Wakley said he has been taking in 5,000 calories a day to pick up an extra 20 pounds.

“Give it your all, it’s about how you’re going to show up and what you’re going to be remembered for,” he said.

Captain Tyler Hughey, also a linebacker and senior said, “We’re coming out of a pretty tough district. It’s going to be the same challenge. We’ve got to play every game like we’re playing against the best team in the state. We’ve got to be able to go out there and make plays.

“Our goal is to win a state championship. Intensity, leadership, encourage my teammates, lead by example,” the 17-year-old said about how he plans to make the best of his senior year at SFHS.

Senior running back Kenyatta Patterson said, “I’ve got heart and pride. I try to do the best for our team.” His advice for his teammates: “Give it everything you’ve got on that field.”

Senior Jamari Markham, 17, said he thinks the district changes “eased the competition.”

“It’s still good,” Markham said. “I’m going out with the same mentality as last year. We’re playing for each other, trying to go to state,”  the offensive tackled said. “I made the best out of my high school career.”

Jack-of-all-trades Walter Jenkins plays tight end, fullback  defensive end, linebacker and on special teams.

“Make sure you go full speed, the whole time,” is the mantra Jenkins plays by. “This is my last year,” the 17-year-old senior said. “Come out here and play fast, strong and got to be together. I’m not that vocal,” he said. “I lead by example.”

The athletes will be sharing the field with cheerleaders and the Raider Regiment Band.

“It’s mostly sophomores, cheerleader Kassidi Tillman said about the squad this year. “The team is rebuilding this season. We have a lot of new people, so we are teaching the basics and practicing a lot.”

Tillman said the cheer team looks forward to interacting with fans this year. “We try to get interactive,” she said. “Yell back at us when we have cheers, when we have signs, yell what they say. We want them talking back.”

Band Director Nate Bisco said the production this year is called “Time Flies” and it is his brain child. “We’re portraying the history of aviation,” he said. “Going back to DiVinci to hopefully Mission to Mars,” he added.

Songs to listen for include “Come Fly With Me,” “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” and Rocket Man.”

“Our color guard will be starting as mechanics,” Bisco said. “Half of them are going to then become flight attendants and pilots and the other half are going to then become astronauts in the last piece.”

“We’re very excited about this show, and it should be another great season of the Raider Regiment.”

According to Coach Wiles, the football team is in charge of its fate for the 2015-2016 season.

 “They got to care about each other, take coaching,” he said.

“In Florida, there are 500 and some football teams, and at the finish line, eight are going to cross it. Depends on how hard they work, how they live their life from day to day.There’s a lot of things that go into being a good football team.

“You got to be a good person first.”

Add a comment


ALACHUA – The Alachua City Commission agreed on Aug. 10 to replace Alachua County Sheriff Office deputies with Alachua Police Department officers in a unanimous vote to insure continued staffing of the School Resource Officer Program.

In a contract prepared as an agreement between the School Board of Alachua County and the city of Alachua, the SBAC agrees to pay the city $82,805.12 for the 2015-2016 school year. The funds will be used to place an SRO at Santa Fe High School, Mebane Middle School, Alachua Elementary School and Irby Elementary School.

APD Chief Chad Scott, a former resource officer, addressed the commission about creating three part-time positions to continue to serve local schools.

“I believe that with these additional positions to the police department, we will be able to implement a school resource program and still accommodate staffing needs and patrol functions,” Scott said.

“I feel this is a huge opportunity for the Alachua Police Department to continue to build a positive relationship with our community."

Scott said he served as an SRO at Lake Forest Elementary, Fort Clarke Middle School, Oakview Middle School and Newberry High School.

“I still hold close relationships with students,” he said.  “As the Chief of Police, I look forward to keeping the public schools in the city of Alachua safe.”

Santa Fe High School Principal Dr. Beth LeClear said she looks forward to working with the APD.

“I am very excited,” LeClear said. “Chief Scott and I have already met. His priority is the safety of the children of Alachua.  I am very happy to work with Chief Scott and his team. We have previously hired City of Alachua [officers] and they are always professional, positive and great role models for the students of Santa Fe.  I am looking forward to a great year.”

 According to the contract, the city of Alachua “reserves control in determining staffing levels for the SROP in each of the four schools.”

 Commissioner Gary Hardacre said he is happy to have that control in the city’s hands.

“I’m glad we’re taking this away from the sheriff. I think it’s in the best interest of our citizens that our police chief, with the help of the city manager, makes these decisions. That way, our citizens really have a voice. If we have a problem in our community, I feel a lot more confident it will be handled the way it should be [having] direct control over that.”

Vice Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. said he has fond memories of the resources officers from schools he attended.

“I think this is actually fantastic,” he said. “When I was in elementary school, I remember 'officer friendly.'  I remember her talking to us about stop signs and how important they were. That sounds so small, but it’s huge to a little kid learning.”

Commissioner Robert Wilford said his sister was an educator for 30 years, and he believes in the SROP. “The idea of children seeing a police officer in a positive light,” Wilford said. “I am very exciting with us taking the lead and cutting out the middle man.

Commissioner Shirley Green Brown is a retired educator.

“Just to see the partnership between the school board and our city police department,” she said. “What a wonderful relationship you will have with the students in this community. Thank you to the city, thank you to the staff.”

Mayor Gib Coerper congratulated the city on “making this happen before the school year starts.”

“All of us have been involved with the school,” Coerper said. “I see what a difference it makes. You will also be the recipient of the third grade letters this year,” he reminded Chief Scott of the tradition of having elementary students write letters to the mayor and police chief each year.

SBAC Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson is also excited about the agreement.

“We're glad of the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the city of Alachua and the Alachua Police Department through this contract,” she said.

“Having the city's own law enforcement officers working with the students, families and staff in their community will certainly be a benefit.”

Add a comment

ALACHUA – According to Art Forgey at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, these two horses were found wandering in High Springs and were called in to the High Springs Police Department on Friday, Aug. 21. Then they wandered away and the ACSO found them ans transported them to the Rural Service Livestock Impound area in LaCrosse where they wait to be claimed by their owners.


One is a sorrel colored gelding and the other is a black and white gelding. Call the Rural Services deputy with any questions or to report details baout these two horses. If unclaimed, they will be auctioned off. 352-955-1818


Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY – The days of Alachua County’s Clerk of the Court and Comptroller J.K. “Buddy” Irby and his staff standing in the lobby of the courthouse near the elevators auctioning off foreclosed properties are numbered.

As of Sept. 1, 2015, will take over the auction process holding them online at

The Fort Lauderdale-based company already represents 28 counties in Florida, and hopes to help increase auction revenue for Alachua County by increasing the number of bidders who can take part in the purchase of foreclosed properties, said CEO Lloyd McClendon.

“We provide this service for many clerks around the state,” McClendon said. “Buyers can avoid parking and other hassles, and do this from the comfort of their home or office.”

Registration is free, McClendon said, and placing a bid is free. “But you need a deposit in order to win,” he added. “You’ll need 5 percent of the amount you intend to win with.”

With no buyer’s premium, McClendon does the math.

“You’re able to win 20 times your deposit. So if you put down $1,000 deposit, the maximum amount of property you can purchase is $20,000.”

According to McClendon, charges the county a $49 transaction fee for every home it sells for counties using its online software and services.

“We’ve done foreclosures in Florida since 2008, using the online foreclosure system with 700,000 cases auctioned so far,” he said.

According to Irby, the idea is that auction participation will be available to everyone throughout the country. And the more bidders in the mix, the higher the selling price could go.

The online auction service will go live on Monday, Aug. 17.

Bidders who want to take a class to learn the software can attend a live training course at the Alachua County Courthouse Center, 201 W. University Ave. at 2 p.m. on Aug. 17.

Realauction is conducting the class and space can be reserved by calling 877-361-7325.

According to Irby, the bank holding the mortgage often ends up being the high bidder.

“They usually bid up to the amount they held the mortgage on it,” Irby said.

“They just want to get their money back. They don’t really want the property.”

“How high the bank will bid so they don’t lose money,” is up to each bank, Irby said.

“Some settle for getting 75 percent of their money back. But nobody knows that but the bank.”

Irby describes the process of what a normal auction goes like.

“We stand at the courthouse,” he said. “My staff or myself goes out and announces the property. It’s been properly advertised.

“It usually starts off at $100, and the next bid may be $10,000 and then we go from there. We really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

This procedure will play out the old-fashioned way until Sept. 1, Irby said. “And we’ll have lots of them,” he added Those interested in searching the database can visit and  click on Foreclosures, “And it list all the foreclosures we have coming up,” Irby said.

“Every now and then, people have gotten a really good bargain. It just depends on who shows up.”

 To close the bid under the current system, Irby said the winning bidder has to deposit 5 percent of the bid with the county.

“They have until the end of business next day to pay. If you don’t have the money, we don’t close the bid and somebody else does the bidding. If they don’t show back up, the money is kept by the court.”

Switching to the new online system has been in the planning stages for about six months,” Irby said. He advises potential bidders to research the properties thoroughly before they bid.

“We tell people ‘buyer beware.’ They want to do their research. What it is, if there are liens or other loans against the property. Research before you start jumping in and bidding.”

McClendon echoes the warning of buyer beware.

“There’s no guarantee,” McClendon said.

“You have to obtain a title search. It’s best if you have an attorney, a real estate professional to help. You really need to do your research, since there’s no guarantees from the clerk’s office. All lot of times, bidders get excited and speed through the warnings.”

The online process does help prevent bidders from fixing the rate on a property, McClendon said.

“Online saves the public time, money, and the clerk’s office resources,” he said. “It prevents collusion. No longer can people get together and ‘fix the deal.’ ”

At the Aug. 11 auction held in the courthouse lobby, four bidders took part in the foreclosure auction process.

One local property investor picked up a 4-bedroom house for $38,000. He said he will miss going to auctions in person because he said he got to know who the other bidders are, and once the process goes online, you won't know who your competition will be, or how high they'll be willing to go.

Add a comment


NEWBERRY – In a move that Newberry City Manager Mike New says is, “By far the most aggressive business and customer friendly utility deposit requirement that I have observed,” the Newberry Commission unanimously voted to approve the return of more than $40,000 in utility deposits to Newberry residential and commercial utility customers.

Ordinance 04-15 was approved on June 22, making Newberry the only municipality in Alachua County to take a chance on both its residential and commercial utility customers by rewarding those with at least one year of perfect payment history a credit of their initial deposits in an upcoming billing cycle.

While several municipalities in Alachua County do offer waivers or refunds of residential deposits based on payment history and credit rating, all but Newberry now hold commercial utility deposits until a business closes an account.

Last year, Mike Layman, owner of The Gourmet Rodent in Newberry requested the city waive his utility deposit of more than $24,000 as he assumed ownership of the company from previous owners who already had a utilities account with Newberry. The city couldn’t transfer the account, so Layman was told he had to open a new one. The reptile breeding facility expanded over decades to more than 10,000 square feet and its utility bill had increased to an average of about $12,000 per month.

  Newberry’s policy for establishing a commercial account requires that a deposit of double the average monthly utility bill be held in a non-interest bearing account. Now, if Layman’s company has paid on time for twelve consecutive months, his initial deposit will be applied to his utility account during the hottest months of  summer when most utility bills are at their peak due to non-stop air conditioning.

“Our City Commission is very committed to developing the right economic climate in Newberry,” New said. “Industry experts would advise our City to go the other direction with utility deposits. Our City Commission understands the risks associated with this policy and decided this calculated risk was worthwhile. It is impressive legislation.”

New, who served as utilities director for the city of Alachua was hired as city manager of Newberry last year. He said he has worked in the utility business for more than 28 years. He spent 17 years with Gainesville Regional Utilities, 10 years with the City of Alachua and 1 year in Newberry.

Local businesses are glad to hear the news.

Chris Mack, owner of Pawn Pro located at 25040 W. Newberry Rd. cools and lights up 9,000 square feet of retail space each month, and his utility bill ranges from $900 to $1,300 a month.

“That’s awesome,” he said about the commission’s decision. “It’s a great idea. If I get it (the deposit) in the summertime, it’s a huge deal. It’s one of my biggest bills of the year, I certainly won’t argue with it.”

Mack, who moved his store three years ago from Alachua to Newberry, said he is impressed with the new ordinance.

He said when businesses are just starting out, it’s hard to come up with a large commercial utility deposit when you’re not open and generating revenue.

“Everything helps,” he said about the upcoming refund that the city expects to be credited to commercial and residential accounts in the next billing cycle.

Commissioner Jason McGehee owns a business in Newberry and said he and the commission know they are taking a risk, but they think the 1,800 residential utility customers and 200 commercial utility account holders will appreciate getting the money back, and it will, in turn, help the community.

“We said we were going to try to be more pro-business,” McGehee said. “The money was sitting in an account and, we know we are taking a risk by doing so, [refunding deposits], but I think it’s a calculated risk.

“We looked at the number of write offs we’ve had, and we thought it was in the best interest of our businesses and residents to give them their money back.

“If you’ve proven you can pay your bill for a year on time, then you deserve your money back.”

McGehee said the accounts will be monitored and they city can revert back if a customer starts missing payments.

The ordinance gives discretion to the city’s billing department to collect a deposit if a customer defaults on payments in the future.

There’s a lot of ordinances we have that we are slowly chipping away at and cleaning up,” he added.

“The next one we have, will be the sign ordinance.”

 Mayor Bill Conrad said the commission looked closely at default accounts before making a decision.

“Our write offs for utility deposits have been less than one percent,” Conrad said.

“We felt like we could return some of the money to the customers as a show of appreciation.”

“We can’t do anything with that money, so we’re going to go ahead and get that back to them.”


Add a comment

Photo SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today


HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Playhouse has a fresh coat of exterior paint and a fresh set of events listed on the marquee out front.

According to President of High Springs Playhouse Linda Burleson, the fresh coat of Windy Blue, Bracing and Quicksilver colors have people taking a second look at the 1950s structure that is currently featuring the youth production of “The Jungle Book.”

 Robert Karl owner of Karl’s Painting and Home Repair out of Gainesville put some finishing touches on the theater Friday. “It was an old brown and they picked out the new colors,” Karl said. “It’s brightened up and everybody really loves the new colors.”

Burleson said the renovations come from “generous sponsors and donations.”

“It desperately needed it,” Burleson said. “I think we’ve gotten the right reactions. It’s catching people’s eye as they go by. It’s refreshing.”

On the porch of the theater sits a giant bench that once served as a prop from a production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”

“We replaced this ramp,” Burleson said about the access ramp that leads up to the porch. “Our plan is for it to last forever.”

“This took a lot of money,” she said. “Donations came from the High Springs CRA and from the community. People really stepped up.”

The recent production “The Jungle Book” took the stage on Aug. 7 with a sold out crowd.

Set designer Daniel Palmer helped with the stage,” Burleson said.

He crafted the hut from the jungle and “Made it wonderful,” she added. “Best set we’ve had all year.”

 One major interior upgrade are the arches over the decorative windows, said Burleson.

The next project the playhouse is working on solving is leaky air conditioner.

“A few weeks ago, they brought in an air conditioning service that cleaned out the air conditioner,” Burleson said. “We have a bad Freon leak and are Band-Aiding it every weekend getting a recharge of Freon.

“We are scrambling to raise money,” she said. Quotes for a new system are coming in at $7,000 to $13,000.

 Upcoming events include the production of “Harvey” and on Aug. 29, Burleson said “Directors are being invited to come see the playhouse.

“We’re inviting experienced directors who were here, but haven’t seen the building in a while. Others have directed here before we got these seats,” she added.

“Now we have professional lighting, sound, and want to get people back in here to see the changes.”

Add a comment

citizen of yearEach year, the Gainesville Sun with the Alachua County School Board, Partners for a Better Community, and the local Kiwanis join together to sponsor the Citizen of the Month program in our elementary schools.

Using the criteria of scholastic standing, attitude, conduct, and community service through clubs and extracurricular activities, a winner of the Citizen of the Month is chosen by their teachers and peers in each of the County's elementary schools. At the end of the year, each school chooses its Citizen of the Year from amongst the award winners of Citizen of the Month.

Sharing the pride and appreciation of his family, teachers, and peers, the City Commission on behalf of the City of Alachua wish to congratulate Alachua Elementary's Citizen of the Year, Jackson Bryan. Honoring his academic and civic achievements, the City presented young Mr. Bryan with a Certificate of Appreciation to recognize him as his award as Citizen of the Year at the July 13 City Commission meeting. He also received a laptop bag, complete with solar-battery charger, donated to the City by SunState Federal Credit Union through the Youth Advisory Council.

Add a comment

More Articles ...